Lions won’t be ready for prime time

The Detroit Lions are going to have to take me to Missouri before I cast my lot with the bunch insisting they’re for real.

In other words, they’ll have to show me.

Yes, they’ve got quarterback Matthew Stafford, 6-foot 5 wideout Calvin “Megatron” Johnson and defensive tackle/savage beast Ndamukong Suh.

They’ll still be taking the field wearing silver and Honolulu blue, and that’s got to add a dash of hope to the weekly worry beginning to surround the teetering Bears.

Despite the Bears’ “big” 34-29 win against Carolina at Soldier Field on Sunday, they are a team in a precarious position.

Two NFC North teams are 4-0, and the Bears already have lost to one of them, the Green Bay Packers, at home.

The Lions are the other 4-0 team in the North, and a loss to them probably relegates the Bears to the peloton of teams vying for a wild-card spot.

But the Bears have owned the Lions for years. They’re 10-2 against them since 2005, with their only two losses coming in the Super Bowl-loser-jinxed season of 2007.

The Lions have a new attitude and a better record than they have since 1980. But they also have the same offensive line they had last season, when the Bears were able to beat them by stuffing the run and sacking (and injuring) the quarterback.

Although the Vikings weren’t able to hold a 20-point halftime lead against the Lions, defensive end Jared Allen still managed to sack Stafford three times in Week 3; the Vikings had five sacks as a team.

If Allen can do it, it seems likely that Julius Peppers and his linemates can, as well.

The Bears’ defense will have to get to Stafford if they want to improve on the 425 yards a game they’re allowing. Every extra second Stafford has to dissect their soft-in-the-middle secondary is playing with fire.

If the Bears give Johnson (24 catches, 321 yards, 8 TDs) time to settle in and play jump-ball against their undersized defensive backs, they will have a problem.

The Bears’ offense can’t rely on the pass as heavily as they did against the Packers and Saints, or they’ll be peeling Jay Cutler off the turf before the third quarter ends.

Although there were high hopes the Bears’ offensive line was going to improve, they’re actually on pace to allow more sacks than last year. They’ve allowed 15 through four games, which would get them to a record-setting 60 for the year if they stay consistent.

This is one area where it seems that they can be consistent.

But teams have run on the Lions. They’re not as awful as Carolina was against the run, but Detroit is allowing 113 rushing yards a game. After Matt Forte’s 205-yard rushing performance against the Panthers last week, he will draw more attention and should make it easier for the Bears to sell the play-action pass.

Cutler has not lost to the Lions as the Bears’ quarterback. He has nine touchdowns and only one interception against them for his career and has completed 67 percent of his passes against them.

The pick: Can the Bears beat the Lions? Um ... yes. They have done so with regularity.

But this is a different Detroit team. They’ve got a winning attitude, a skilled quarterback and a formidable pass-rusher. They’ll be playing on “Monday Night Football” for the first time since 2001.

They also still have Lions on their helmets. They’ve escaped defeat by erasing 20- and 24-point deficits the past two weeks. Some say it proves they’re for real.

I say it proves nothing, and don’t bet against the streak.

Give me the Bears, 27-24.

• Eric Olson is the Northwest Herald’s sports editor. Reach him at 815-526-4554, email eolson@nwherald.com, or follow him on Twitter @NWH_EricOlson.

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